Kurt Cobain’s iconic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ guitar has been bought for £3.6million by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
A bidding war pushed the price of the left-handed blue and white 1969 Fender Mustang, which featured in Nirvana’s seminal 1991 grunge anthem, to seven times its auction estimate.
Irsay, 62, worth an estimated $3.5 billion (£2.8bn) is one of the world’s most prolific guitar collectors and has bought instruments owned by Elvis Presley, George Harrison, Prince, Bob Dylan and David Glimmer among others.
He said: “I am thrilled to preserve and protect another piece of American culture that changed the way we looked at the world.”
Cobain’s guitar, case and strap was marked for £500,000 at Julien’s Auctions, California.
The singer, who shot himself to death in 1994 aged 27 after a battle with heroin addiction, said of the axe in his final interview with Guitar World: “I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars.
“But out of all the guitars in the whole world, the Fender Mustang is my favourite. I’ve only owned two of them.”
Cobain had model daughter Frances Bean Cobain, 29, with wife and ‘Hole’ frontwoman Courtney Love, 57.
His estate said it will donate a portion of the proceeds of the sale to a mental health initiative run by the Irsays called Kicking The Stigma.
The auctioneers hailed the sale a “once-in-a-lifetime”.
Darren Julien, chief executive officer of Julien’s Auctions, said: “To have this legendary guitar, one of the most culturally significant and historically important guitars of Kurt Cobain and in all of rock music history to return to Indiana to be part of Jim Irsay’s renowned memorabilia collection is a great honour and personal highlight of my life.
“This once-in-a-lifetime auction has been one of the greatest privileges in my professional career and I’m duly pleased that the proceeds will also bring much needed attention to mental health awareness.”
Cobain’s acoustic guitar from Nirvana’s acclaimed 1993 MTV Unplugged session in New York previously sold for a record-breaking £4.8million ($6m) at auction in June 2020.
The 1959 Martin D-18E, which was famously regularly out of tune, had been expected to fetch up to £1.6 million ($2m) at the online ‘Music Icons’ sale hosted by Julien’s Auctions before it ended up breaking the record for the most expensive guitar.